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RMI unveils set of rules to help miners fulfill ESG expectations

Teck worker in Chile. (Image courtesy of Teck Resources.)

US-based Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), multi-industry initiative focused on delivering guidelines and rules for better traceability and responsibility along the mineral supply chains, has launched an Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Standard to further improve conditions for workers, the environment and communities.

As economies start to re-emerge from covid-crisis mode, mining companies are feeling increased pressure from shareholders and institutional investors to give ESG factors the centre stage.

The Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP) ESG standard seeks to help miners navigate expectations by providing a set of criteria applicable to mineral processors, smelters and refiners, including those integrated with mine sites.

The Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP) ESG standard seeks to help miners navigate expectations by providing a set of criteria applicable to the full supply chain

RMI, which counts with more than 400 member companies, identified for major areas for miners to focus on — environment, social obligations, occupational health and safety provisions, and governance requirements 

The environmental criteria cover the impact from operations on the environment and biodiversity as well as on communities adjacent to companies’ operations.

Occupational health and safety provisions address company hygiene, safe operation of equipment, personal protection requirements and access to first aid and canteens.

Social obligations are related to range of labour practices such as age of employment, fair working hours, minimum wages and overtime, including women’s rights and under-represented communities.

Under governance requirements, the new ESG standard provides guidelines to ensure that businesses are duly registered, adhere to laws and regulations.

Leah Butler, vice president of responsible sourcing at the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), said the new standard will help companies navigate current frameworks, such as those set up by the London Metals Exchange (LME).

Unifying individual efforts

The LME, the world’s biggest market for industrial metals, introduced in 2019 responsible-sourcing standards covering all metals traded on the bourse.

The move forced producers to probe their supply chains and demonstrate compliance with due-diligence guidelines drawn up by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Miners, including Anglo-Russian Polymetal (LON: POLY), have long complained about the lack of standards when it comes to ESG.

There are many cases where investors are led to believe that a certain company is advanced in terms of ESG only to later discover that “it’s not true”  

Polymetal’s chief executive Vitaly Nesis

Chief executive Vitaly Nesis said there were many cases where investors were led to believe that a certain company was advanced in terms of ESG only to later discover that “it’s not true.”  

“In the cases where you need to measure actual relationships with the workforce or the host communities . . . rating agencies frequently lack a robust analytical framework,” Nesis said in an October interview.

new conflict minerals regulation came into full force across the European Union this year. It focuses on four minerals commonly referred to as “3TG” – tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold – which have been found to occasionally finance armed conflict or have been mined using forced labour.

The EU is currently evaluating whether existing schemes to certify that refiners are sourcing gold responsibly conform with the rules that came into effect in January.

If the bloc accepts existing accreditations, it will be simpler for gold importers to show they comply with the regulation.